Baraboo has seen some powerful statements of public support for teachers' union rights against Gov. Scott Walker's proposed bargaining restrictions this week. However, on Saturday a group of local conservatives rolled to Madison to join the counter-demonstration.
On Thursday evening Baraboo School Board candidate and Sauk County Tea Party activist John Meegan sent out an e-mail invitation to join an "I support Scott Walker's Budget Bill" rally taking place late Saturday morning.
He recommended a few rules for the best political impact:
"All signage should be supportive of the budget reform bill, Gov. Walker, conservative legislators, freedom, liberty, rule of law, etc. No partisan or violent signage allowed. For those who open carry, weapons are NOT recommended," Meegan stated in the invitation.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday a crowd that grew to at least a dozen people assembled with Meegan in the parking lot of the former Pierce's Eastside Marketplace store.
Meegan said he was working with a national group called American Majority helping gather people to show support for Walker's policies.
Meegan characterized the teachers union supporters as "hostile."
"We're not that way," he said. "We look toward a very peaceful event."
Baraboo resident Lori Mislivecek said she was going to Madison because Gov. Walker is doing what she elected him to do.
"My concern is our debt, both at the Wisconsin level and the federal level," she said. "It's about being fiscally responsible and self responsibility."
Walker's budget repair bill is intended to address a projected $137 million shortfall this year that is expected to reach as much as $3.6 billion in the next biennium. Wisconsin and other states are required by law to pass balanced budgets and are not legally allowed to borrow money and run deficits in the way the federal government has.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, Meegan urged the demonstrators to get ready to go and within a few minutes three cars took them toward Madison.
According to news reports, Madison police estimated 70,000 people were on the Capitol Square Saturday, including both union supporters and counter-demonstrators.
A Wisconsin Public Radio reporter on the scene said it was hard to separate the competing groups. He speculated thousands or perhaps tens of thousands in the crowd were Walker supporters.
In a Sunday afternoon phone interview, Meegan said he couldn't estimate how large the pro-Walker crowd was during their rally Saturday. However, he believed they made a strong showing.
"They were just as far as I could see," he said. "I think it was a wonderful turnout."
Meegan said it mattered that people like himself, who support the governor's policies, stood up to make their statement.
"There's a lot of folks who work during the week and don't get paid time off to go down to the Capitol to protest," he said.
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